Quick — if someone asked your right now where your website lives, could you tell them? If a customer called you to say your site was down, would you know who to call? Do you know when your domain name needs to be renewed?
If the answer to these questions is “yes,” then congratulations, you are one step closer to controlling your digital destiny. If the answer is “no,” then you can take solace in the knowledge that you are not alone.
For small business owners, their website is often a source of bafflement and frustration. The creation, updating and maintenance are all a big mystery, shrouded in mysterious words and acronyms (DNS, PHP, MySQL, anyone?). This isn’t necessarily bad — you don’t need to be a writer, photographer, coder or designer to run your auto repair shop or nonprofit organization any more than you need to be a lawyer or accountant. These are all specialized skills needed to run an organization, but you don’t have to possess them. You can (and do) hire people with these skills to perform the services you need.
However, you do need to supply the experts with the specific information they need to do their jobs. Your accountant needs access to your bank information and your lawyer needs documents specific to your business. In the same vein, the person or persons who work on your website need to know some things as well, such as:
- Where is your website hosted (i.e. where are the site’s files and programming stored)?
- Where is your domain (website address) registered?
- When does the domain expire?
- What software controls the website?
- What are the usernames and passwords for these accounts?
All too often, however, a business owner cannot answer these questions. They may have put the construction of their company website in the hands of an employee who is now gone, or with a consultant who is being replaced. And the person now charged with making a simple change to the site is stuck because they lack the access necessary to do their job.
There are other risks as well. Domain names and website hosting arrangements are often renewed on an annual basis. It is often the case that the invoice for renewal is ignored, because it looks like so much of the spam that comes in every day. And then one day your company website is no longer available.
As a business owner, you should have file of important data related to your digital assets. This would include your website, domain name and email host. It might also include social media accounts such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Google. You should know where these services are located and the administrative usernames and passwords that make them accessible.
And, needless to say, this information needs to be updated on a regular basis, as usernames and passwords change and services are moved to different providers.
Keeping track of this information will make it easier for you to maintain control over your all-important digital assets and reduce the chance that someday you’ll be scrambling frantically to provide the most basic answers.